The “sandwich generation” refers to middle-aged people with both children and parents. The kids and the retired folk are the two slices of metaphorical “bread,” you see, while people of my age are in the middle, like bacon, lettuce, tomato, light mayo, a Kraft Single, ground black pepper and Frank’s Red-Hot! sauce.
In some ways, dealing with both parents and kids is nothing to complain about — after all, it just means that nobody has died yet. As well, due to the fact that our kids rely on us for access to their grandparents and vice versa, we can turn the situation to our benefit — for example, by collecting a cash “cover charge” whenever they spend time together, or by only bringing the kids to their grandparents’ house when there’s a meal or present-giving involved.
However, there is a definite downside to being the filling in the demographic sandwich. As a member of so-called Generation X, I’ve lived my whole life in the shadow of so-called Baby Boomers. There are several radio stations around here that, 40 years ago, played nothing but the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hedrix, Pink Floyd, etc., and now, 40 years later, the exact same vinyl records are still spinning. It’s like the DJs have been locked in their booth since 1973 with no outside contact except mellow late-night callers: “Hey, your station’s the best, man. I know every single song you play. Can I, like, request ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ by Steve Miller again?” If I turn off the Boomer-biased radio and turn on the TV, it doesn’t take long before I find an interview with some smug ex-hippie boasting that Woodstock (“all that peace and free love, man”) was the best thing ever, which always makes me want to start a riot or a punk band.
As if the older generation wasn’t annoying enough to deal with, there’s also those rascally young ‘uns. They are quite slippery and hard to figure out. If you go up to someone in their 20s (so-called Generation Y) or in their teens (so-called Millennials) and ask them anything, nine times out ten you’ll be ignored. The only way to even get their attention, usually, is to rip their earphones out by the wires and to cover the screen of their hypnotic machine with your hand and to yell, “Hey, I’m trying to talk to you here!”
Plus, the fashions worn by young people these days are ridiculous. Once I tried to explain to my younger cousins how styles were so much cooler in my day. I even dug out an old picture of me, circa 1986, when I was dressed like rocker Huey Lewis (skinny tie, Raybans sunglasses, pastel-peach jacket, neon-green T-shirt) and had big, gel-glittery hair, like Tubbs from Miami Vice. I never got to resolve this debate with my cousins, as they wouldn’t stop laughing and threatening to put “‘80s Mark” on something called Flickr. (Is that a website or something? What happened to its “e”?)
Although I’m writing this article to defend my generation, I must, in all fairness, admit that we’re not perfect. Some Generation Xers are cynical and bitter. I used to be like that too, but then one day I woke up and couldn’t remember why I was so cynical and bitter; life has been just an absolute delight ever since!
A lot of my fellow Xers are grown men and women who still avoid traditional adult responsibilities. Some flit from relationship to relationship, never able to commit to anything that lasts longer than a YouTube video. Others are perpetual students, collecting so many degrees and diplomas that it poses a fire hazard.
And then there are the Gen Xers who still live with their parents. If you are a Baby Boomer with a middle-aged “child” living in your basement, how should you deal with it? The obvious solution, of course, is to ask your son or daughter to take the dog for a walk and then, when he or she goes around the corner at the end of the street, throw everything into a moving van, drive to an undisclosed location, buy a new house and buy a new dog.
If you’re not comfortable with that, my Baby Boomer readers, try digging out your old record player and some classic vinyl albums. Crank the volume to 11 and blast “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Fly Like An Eagle,” over and over and over, as you dance in the basement wearing 60s-style beads and tie-dye clothes, in a cloud of incense. In less than a week, you’ll be watching with a tender mix of pride and sadness as your Gen X “baby bird” drags their boxes and suitcases up your basement stairs, fleeing your nest at last.